“Before You Formed in the Womb I Knew You”: Sex Selection and Spaces of Ambiguity




The spaces provided by biotechnologies of sex selection are rich with epistemological, ontological, and ethical considerations that speak to broadly held social values and epistemic frameworks. In much of the discourse about sex selection that is not medically indicated, the figure of the “naturally” conceived (future) child is treated as a problem for parents who want to select the sex of their child. As unknown, that child is ambiguous in terms of sex—“it” is both and neither, and might be the “wrong” sex. Drawing on Beauvoirean thinking about ambiguity and desire, I cast part of the desire to select the sex of a child as bound to an ethic and epistemology of disambiguation, and urge that the space of being-unknown is one to which each person is entitled.